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Wednesday, 16 September 2015
Page: 7025

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (16:26): I rise to make a contribution in this debate and, unfortunately, just following on from Senator Reynolds. I think Senator Reynolds failed to listen, which is probably not all that unusual in this chamber—sometimes it gets a bit noisy. This bill linked, as a minimum, ADF pay to the higher of either an increase in CPI or parliamentary allowances. So, a minimum of—not 'to'. Also, she has very carefully picked out a statistic that, not surprisingly, was the best possible statistic for her case. So, the June quarter 2014-15 was 1.5 per cent. But, hang on, that was 2014-15. What about 2012-13? That was 2.4 per cent. What about the three per cent before that?

Senator Canavan: It's not relevant!

Senator GALLACHER: I will tell you why it is relevant, Senator Canavan. The reason it is relevant is that for about 22 years I used to negotiate pay rises. What we used to do was to put the CPI in our back pockets. We used to go to the employer and say, 'This is what the CPI says.' And you know that when you examine what the CPI from the-Australian Bureau of Statistics is, it is a measurement of household expenditure. You only have to wander around the newspapers to find a decent article in The Sydney Morning Herald which lists every category of expenditure. I am sure that Senator Canavan, with his Productivity Commission hat on, knows how carefully it is constructed to give a representative view of what the expenses of a household are in the six states and two territories.

We know—well, I think—that the ADF actually get paid prospectively rather than retrospectively. So we are actually going to try to guess what is going to be in the second and third years. We are not going to pay them retrospectively; we are going to say, 'Okay, we think the CPI for the last three years has done, not 1.5 per cent, but 2.3 per cent.' Senator Reynolds said that people would have got a decrease, when common sense would tell you that you average it over three years if you are doing a three-year agreement—you would have a look at the last three, and the last three were 2.3 per cent. You could articulate that it might be more going forward, or you could articulate that it might be less, but it is a bargain.

The real problem here is that the ADF do not have the same pay structure as people in the wider community do. The ADF serve; they serve this country and have served overseas for 10 or more years in active service. They should not really be put under the pump and worry about their families paying the electricity, the school fees, the petrol and the public transportation costs that they have seen increase. They should not have to worry about that. The finance minister, Senator Cormann, can get out there this morning and say, 'I am open and ready for business. Trust me, Prime Minister, I am as loyal as they come!'

But we all know that the cigar and the glass of wine and the tune Best Day of My Life was the genesis of this episode when they sat down in the May 2014 budget and wrecked the place. They never sat down and said they were going wreck the ADF pay increases, but that was the implication of their terrific—in their view—budget.

It started to filter out and it filtered out to the ADF. Rightly, Senator Lambie and others took the government to task. They absolutely took them to task, so much so that the bill went through the Senate, and it has been put on the backburner because amongst those 150 representatives in that other chamber you are going to struggle to find a lot of people who are going to stand up and do a Senator Reynolds—distort the fact and figures—and try to say that this is a bad deal.

This is putting a base into the argument. They should have the CPI in their back pocket every year because that is what happens on a base. Things go up—transport goes up, education goes up, electricity goes up. I know lots of people in the community who say that the CPI is not enough and that it does not keep pace with actual inflation. I do accept that the Australian Bureau of Statistics does a job, a very thorough job, in trying to get all of the cost-of-living items into a figure, but my contention is that that is a base figure. Most groups in the community want to put that in their back pocket and go for a bit more.

I commend Senator Lambie in her endeavours to shine a light on this despicable effort by the coalition government to save money in these areas. These are people who serve the country and, as Senator Lambie has stated, there are plenty of people, maybe even reservist brigadiers, who get paid very well and who can probably forgo a pay increase. Do not tell me that the grunt, the bloke on the ground, someone in 7RAR, someone who is a sapper with three kids at home, and might be posted in Afghanistan or wherever they are posted, has to worry about whether their family has enough to make ends meet. Do not tell me they should wear any of this nonsense; they should not. They should be paid respectfully and commensurate with their loyalty and service for Australia. Their loyalty and service for Australia should be recognised with a fair and just pay offer each and every year that they serve.

There are a couple of inquiries that I have been involved in, and we know that the Army, the Navy and the Air Force do fantastic work. We know that people are loyal to their service to the Defence Force, to the government and to the service of Australia. We also know that should be enhanced and continued. I would be surprised if any defence minister was not bitterly disappointed at this miserable effort from Senator Cormann and the honourable Joe Hockey when they sat down in May and concocted the best day of their life when they got their cigars and their glasses of wine out. I am sure that they did not actually envisage that they were going to have to eat a bit of humble pie later on by backing down on the effect of their awful work. I am not surprised that Senator Cormann, today, is waiving all that and airbrushing it into history. 'I'm open for business. I'm free. I'll serve any Prime Minister.' I think this Prime Minister would probably have to have a bit of a think, if that was the architect of this Prime Minister's demise and the absolutely humiliating backdown that they have had to cop.

Then we compound it. They will not even debate it in the other place because we know what happened in the debate here. You cannot find anybody who is against Senator Lambie's proposal. I am not against it. I am sure no-one in the chamber it. No-one has spoken against it. If it ever sees the light of day in that other chamber, there will not be too many coalition or Labor people coming out against it. So maybe, just maybe, Senator Lambie has hit the nail right on the head in her attempt to advocate for defence personnel, which I know she is truly passionate about. I have had to endure her arduous questioning of a number of senior defence officials at a number of hearings. Her passion will not go away. The issue will not go away. They should debate it in the other chamber.

They do not think defence people are worth the CPI—that basket of consumer goods that you need to feed your family. If they do not think they are worth that, then say so. Let those thousands of members of the Australian Defence Force hear it in the chamber. But do not come in and be tricky and use one year at 1½ per cent. Go back over the three years when it was 2.3 per cent. Anyway, we are guessing about what it is going to be in the future.

As I said, Mr Acting Deputy President,—I am sure you are aware of it because you did it thousands of times yourself—when you approached negotiations you have the CPI in your back pocket and you went for a bit more. I believe the CPI and a bit more is what defence personnel should get in reward for their loyalty, their service and their dedication to this country. They are often maintaining two households. They are not always at home; they are often deployed. We take care of them as best we can when they are deployed. It is not easy when you are bringing up a family at home and your husband might be doing six months in Afghanistan, or six months in Timor, or working on the floods in Queensland. In the last round of meetings that we had in Queensland, there was a unit that was deployed for the Queensland floods, they had two weeks off and then went to Afghanistan for six months. That family has to make ends meet. They need a car to get around to drop the kids off at school. CPI and a bit better would be very, very handy.